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A call for South Auckland pensioners to step up and get Covid-19 vaccine

Wednesday 16 June 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in New Zealand, Regional

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A call for South Auckland pensioners to step up and get Covid-19 vaccine
RNZ File image. Photo: Supplied via LDR

A South Auckland GP is happy Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy has dropped but wants pensioners to step up and do their bit for the community by getting immunised.

Fewer than half of South Auckland pensioners have had a shot despite being prioritised to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations early.

The government's roll-out scheme put around 70,000 South Aucklanders over-65 in priority group two because the area is high risk. That includes a high proportion of Māori and Pasifika people.

However, so far just 30,000 have had their vaccine.

South Auckland GP Api Talemaitoga is part of the Ministry of Health Covid-19 Pacific Response team and he told Morning Report he would have liked the number to be higher.

"I think we are just lucky we have no community cases at the moment but I think there are things we could have done, the missed opportunities. And I talk about what I see as barriers sometimes being put up," Talemaitoga said.

"We are very good, we are very organised, but we tell people 'ring an 0800 number' and I have seen people ... where they wait two hours to get an answer. So it's difficult. We are not being permissive enough for people in this age group to be allowed to come for a vaccination freely.

"I think our messaging has been confusing ... the messaging about the vaccine supply hasn't been clear. The people hear that we haven't got that many doses left in the country whereas there is enough to vaccinate this group."

He encouraged using data collected to see which groups were not well represented in vaccination numbers and then encouraging them to come forward for vaccinations.

Vaccine hesitancy for the Pasifika community had dropped from 34 percent to 9 percent last month, he said.

"I think that the people are ready, the communities have heard the message, they know to ask a trusted source.

"But when they are then told to wait or ring this 0800 number or don't ring us, we'll ring you, as we have heard around the country ... that puts another barrier as I see it...

He wanted to see more efforts to reach vaccine targets in South Auckland.

"We know the data, we just need to analyse it and feed it back and let the community know. If the Tongans are getting 90 percent vaccination, well, our messaging to the Samoans, the Niueans and Iraqi people - come on guys, you need to lift your game, help your community immunity here.

"I think we can be smarter in how we encourage our communities to get vaccinated."